Labor is still a major concern for most remodelers. More than the difficulty of finding skilled workers, however, it's the turnover that causes the most grief. It's costly, too. Replacing a key employee costs as much as 1.5 times salary, and that's just the hard costs of finding and training a replacement. Turnover is far more expensive if you also consider the money wasted because of the resulting mistakes, bottlenecks, redundancies, and inefficiencies. And don't forget to account for the value of lost time and distracted focus of the company owner and other employees who have to pick up the slack, as well as the damage to customer relations and employee morale that turnover usually causes.

If I asked you what it is that causes your employees to jump ship, you'd probably point to the booming market and the ease with which a semiskilled craftsman can get another couple of dollars per hour with a company down the street. Or you'd moan about the way your most ambitious and reliable employees use your company as a training ground, only to strike out on their own at the first opportunity.

Nice try. Valid reasons all, but not the main reason. The main reason employees leave their jobs is their boss. That's true not only in the remodeling and construction industries but in manufacturing, food service, banking, retail — you name it. Not long hours; not low pay; not substandard working conditions; not commuting distance; not boredom; not stress; not any of the things we habitually single out to explain turnover. No, employees leave their jobs when they can no longer tolerate their immediate supervisors.

That bad apple could be anyone on your staff with authority over other employees. It could be a project foreman who's unusually demanding of his crew. It might be a production manager who came up through the ranks and now lords it over coworkers still stuck in the field. It could be a sales manager with an overdeveloped ego. It could be almost anyone.

It could be, but it probably isn't. It's you. The manager your employees are fleeing is you.

Why? What are you doing that's driving them away? I only get one page, so here are the highlights.

You talk too much. You probably do this on sales calls, too; fortunately your clients don't work for you. When you dominate every discussion, when the final decision is always yours, when the strategy is always the one you want to use, your employees' sense of purpose is diminished. They feel trapped and powerless.

You expect perfection. Delegating responsibility only works if it includes the freedom to fail. I don't mean just little mistakes, I mean the freedom to make the really big boo-boos — like the ones you make. Unless employees have real authority, there is no accountability. They won't hang on unless you let go.

You're quick to criticize. Remodeling is a tough business. Every day something goes haywire, so it's easy to find fault. It's also easy to pass off criticism as instruction, or to think of it as maintaining discipline. Keeping people in line just creates a line of people standing around waiting for something else to come along.

You're slow to praise. This is the big one. It's not so much what you're doing to drive employees away as what you're not doing to make them want to stay. And what you're not doing is letting your people know what a good job they're doing, how important they are to your company, how grateful you are for their contribution. That doesn't mean you should stop correcting mistakes. But every time you find fault, look for something positive to balance the criticism. That shouldn't be too hard if your company is successful — after all, it's your employees who make it that way.